The GOP presidential primary season is a little ridiculous right now, what with eleventy Republicans in the race already. It gets so hard to keep track of everyone running that sometimes I find myself wishing that the primary was already decided and we could move on to the general election. With my favorite candidate as the nominee, of course.
At that point, I would call for supporters of all the other candidates to coalesce around mine (because he or she won) and work hard to get my candidate elected. I would want the supporters of those other (losing) candidates to put just as much effort and energy into getting my candidate across the finish line as they did trying to get their candidates to win the primary. And I would want them to do all this cheerfully, positively, enthusiastically, working as a united team towards a victory for all of us in November.
That’s of course if MY candidate wins. If yours wins, we’re all doomed, naturally.
Okay, I may be kidding about The Doom (a little), but quite a few people I talk to regularly on the conservative end of the spectrum seem to be saying just that.
There is a disturbing lack of acknowledgement from many on the right that even if one’s favorite candidate wins the primary, one will still need many allies from among the supporters of the other candidates in order to win anything.
Think through that: what do you expect from the rest of the field if your candidate wins the primary? You expect, as I did above, that the various parts and factions and camps will rally around the prevailing candidate, YOUR candidate, don’t you?
Of course you do. You should.
The real question then is how to make that an easier decision for those supporters of the losing candidates when the time comes. That actually means planning far in advance of the primary result, strategically preparing the ground for the unity and cooperation you want to see. That means fostering the conditions that will make it more than possible; that will make it INEVITABLE.
As my friend Ed Sarlls pointed out recently, over 80% of us will have to switch candidates at least once in the next year. So if we’re agreed that you think Candidate A is best, and you want supporters of candidates B through P (are we really that flush with candidates???) to rally behind A when they have to switch, then perhaps we should look at the four greatest things you can do now to make that more likely to happen.
1.) Pitch Your Guy – We don’t respond well to the people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down in our personal lives, and any candidate making that a primary tactic will ultimately turn people off. Sure, the other candidates have failings – some too numerous to mention – but your first job as a supporter of your candidate is to SELL THAT CANDIDATE. You don’t do that when your focus is chiefly on the failings of the others running. You do that by promoting the candidate’s positives, and by being the kind of person other people want to listen to. Be nice. Be knowledgeable. Be passionate. Be positive. But above all be ABOUT YOUR CANDIDATE. This will make it far easier for supporters of other candidates to join your team once you’re past the primary.
2.) Target the Real Enemy – The GOP primary is a horserace, sure. But it’s actually just Phase I in a two-part job interview. Phase II is all about winning the general election; convincing the apolitical, the independents, the casual voters that both your team (GOP) and your candidate (who just won the primary, of course) are better for the country than the person the Democrats field. If you’re starting to think about the general only after the primary is over, you’re going to be way behind. Part of Phase I is convincing GOP primary voters that you can take the fight into Phase II.
Keep an eye open for opportunities to attack Democrat policies that are hurting the country. Draw strong contrasts between those policies and the ones your candidate will be running on. Connect the dots for people so that they see your candidate has better policies and actual solutions for problems we face. The goal is ultimately to destroy the Left machine, not the current Republican field who you will need to get across the finish line.
3.) Be Gracious – When Rand Paul entered the primary, Ted Cruz welcomed him into the race with a positive message. Though they enjoy quite a bit of overlap in their supporters, Ted set the tone for the race as a positive opportunity to have substantive discussions, rather than a cage match. Sure, there’s going to be some blood drawn in the coming months, but at the same time, conservative values and issues are going to be front and center in a way they haven’t in a long time. The more we focus on articulating those issues and promoting them, the less opportunity the media will have to make the conversation about infighting, personalities, and candidate conflicts. By minimizing those clashes, we starve the media of distractions to use, and force them to focus more on the ideas and values we want to promote. And we get to thwart their goal of dividing our side so we’ll lose.
4.) Think ‘Family’ – Andy Peth of The Party of Choice draws a great contrast between the Left and our coalition on the right. “Collectives control people; we free them. Collectives thrive on conformity; we thrive on challenge. Thus, while control rallies the Left, it only splinters the Right. To defeat the Collective, we must unify as something empowering to individuals: We must be a family.”
No, you aren’t going to get along with all your cousins. You might not even be on speaking terms very often. But you certainly want them to have your back in a fight. And make no mistake; that is what the general election is going to be – a messy, unfair, dirty, knock-down, drag-out fight between the control freaks on the Left (with their complicit media allies) and those of us who still believe in America as a beacon of freedom and liberty and opportunity. It’s going to be a bloody gang war, and we’ll need all the allies we can muster to defend our territory.
Of course your candidate is going to win the primary, because you’re going to work like hell to make that happen. I just want to make sure you’re also setting that candidate up for victory – a huge coalition on the right who are all happy to rally behind him (or her) and fight together to guarantee a win for you, your candidate, and the country.